Understanding The NBA Drafting System

Posted on November 05 2019

The NBA draft: a mystery to some, but a cause for exuberant celebration to others. Of course, being a huge NBA fan helps, but for those who don't quite understand how the whole NBA draft works – or, for that matter, the draft involving any sport – we are going to try to simplify it a bit in just a few hundred words.

Granted, not every aspect of the draft will be covered here, but it should give those with no understanding a better comprehension of how the NBA draft works. We're going to simplify it as much as possible.

So, get your favorite basketball cap on – whether It's the Celtics, the Knicks, the Lakers, or someone else – and get ready to gain a little insight as to how the NBA draft works.

Understanding The NBA Drafting System

Dreams Turn to Reality

For any number of young men, draft night means the life they've always dreamed of could come to its fruition.

To break down the draft, several categories will be involved:

  • Draft day
  • The training process
  • The lottery

The Lottery

As every regular season of basketball ends, the playoffs are made by a total of 16 teams. That means vacation time for the remaining 14 teams. As sad as teams may be about not making the playoffs, it does mean that an opportunity will now present itself. The opportunity is given to those 14 "losing" teams, via The Lottery, to earn a top pick in the next draft.

How are lottery picks decided? In a glass jar, ping-pong balls numbering one through 14 are mixed. From those 14 balls, possible four-ball combinations number 1000. However, the 11, 12, 13, 14 sequence is not used. Based on the regular season, the 14 teams receive these four-ball sequences.

Next, four-ball sequences are picked. After the first three picks, based on their records, the 11 remaining picks are assigned to teams. Even if their combination is not picked, the worst team will still be guaranteed a top-4 pick.

Pro Days and Workouts – Training

The March Madness Tournament signifies the conclusion of the NCAA basketball season. After their team's final game, NBA hopefuls declare for the draft. This is when vigorous training begins. Costs for two months of training for a draft hopeful can exceed $20,000. Who incurs that? Their agents. (There is no rule stating this, but it is agreed upon within the market.)

Based on agent relationship and preference, players train at various locations, including the following:

  • Phoenix, Arizona (Sports Academy)
  • Thousand Oaks, California (EXOS)
  • and others

During training, these NBA hopefuls will participate in private workouts and talk to teams. Sometimes more than one team is interested in a player. In these cases, at a player’s training facility, they may choose to hold practice in front of multiple interested parties (i.e., front office officials, scouts, and teams).

The Big Day

When draft day finally arrives, a total of 60 new players will be drafted every year. In the NBA, the total number of active players number 450. NBA draftees chosen in the first and second rounds have a significant opportunity for bigger contracts than those chosen later.

Determined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on a "rookie scale", draft salaries in the NBA are pretty much predetermined. The first two years of a contract are guaranteed, and the contract can run four years.

There’s some serious money to be spent! Example: The salary-cap was set, back in 2017, at $99 million.

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